May 11, 2007

Heaven on Earth

by Kristin Berkey-Abbott

FRIDAY, 11 MAY, 2007
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Poem: "Heaven on Earth" by Kristin Berkey-Abbott from, Whistling Past the Graveyard. © Pudding House Publications, 2004. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

Heaven on Earth

I saw Jesus at the bowling alley,
slinging nothing but gutter balls.
He said, "You've gotta love a hobby
that allows ugly shoes."
He lit a cigarette and bought me a beer.
So I invited him to dinner.

I knew the Lord couldn't see my house
in its current condition, so I gave it an out
of season spring cleaning. What to serve
for dinner? Fish—the logical
choice, but after 2000 years, he must grow weary
of everyone's favorite seafood dishes.
I thought of my Granny's ham with Coca Cola
glaze, but you can't serve that to a Jewish
boy. Likewise pizza—all my favorite
toppings involve pork.

In the end, I made us an all-dessert buffet.
We played Scrabble and Uno and Yahtzee
and listened to Bill Monroe.
Jesus has a healthy appetite for sweets,
I'm happy to report. He told strange
stories which I've puzzled over for days now.

We've got an appointment for golf on Wednesday.
Ordinarily I don't play, and certainly not in this humidity.
But the Lord says he knows a grand miniature
golf course with fiberglass mermaids and working windmills
and the best homemade ice cream you ever tasted.
Sounds like Heaven to me.

Literary and Historical Notes:

On this day, in 1858 the state of Minnesota was admitted into the Union. It was from Minnesota that we got the stapler, water skis and roller blades, Scotch tape, Bisquick, Bob Dylan, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Spam.

It's the birthday of one of the foremost physicists of the 20th century, Richard Feynman, born in New York City (1918). Feynman went on to study physics at MIT, and while he was getting his Ph.D. in theoretical physics at Princeton, he got involved in the Manhattan Project to help develop the first nuclear weapon. On the day of the first test of the atom bomb, the scientists were all given special welder's goggles to protect their eyes from the light of the blast. But Feynman decided that he wanted to see the blast unfiltered. So he watched from behind the windshield of a truck, which he figured would protect him from ultraviolet light. He was the only person that day to see the first atomic explosion with naked eyes.

At first, he was happy that they'd completed their project, but after the bombs were dropped on Hiroshima, he began to feel that their work would lead to the end of the world. He said, "[I'd be out for a walk] and I would see people building a bridge ... and I thought, they're crazy, they're crazy, they just don't understand. ... Why are they making new things? It's so useless."

Feynman struggled for a few years, trying to decide what to do, but finally he realized that the thing he loved about physics was that it was fun, and he should just have fun with it. He took a job teaching at Cornell University. One day he was sitting in the cafeteria when he watched a student throw a plate across the room. Something about watching the spinning of that plate gave Feynman an idea for how certain subatomic particles might interact with each other. The result was his theory of quantum electrodynamics, which helped explain the relationship between light and subatomic particles. He won a Nobel Prize for his work in 1965.

Richard Feynman said, "Physics is like sex ... it may give some practical results, but that's not why we do it."

It's the birthday of Mari Sandoz, (books by this author) born in the post office run by her family near Hay Springs, Nebraska (1896). She made her name with a book about her pioneer father, called Old Jules (1935). She also wrote Crazy Horse (1942), one of the first books by a white author that tried to see the Indian Wars from the Indians' point of view.

It's the birthday of Stanley Elkin, (books by this author) born in New York City (1930). He's the author of several humorous novels, including The Magic Kingdom (1985) and The Dick Gibson Show (1971) about a radio personality who takes on-air confessions from all the crazy people in America. When asked about his literary influences, Stanley Elkin said, "I hope no one else is doing what I'm doing, but I hope that at least I am doing what I'm doing."

It's the birthday of the man who wrote "Puttin' on the Ritz," Irving Berlin, (books by this author) born Israel Baline in Russia (1888).

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




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